Friday, February 17, 2012

What Is A Factoid And Why The Hell Should We Care About Them?

I have been told that 'factoids' are like the hemorrhoids of the information age. Now that is just plain silly. They are more like the dingle berry's of the information age; always dandling around and only noticed when they become significant.

The dictionary definition for factoid is 1. an insignificant or trivial fact or 2. something fictitious or unsubstantiated that is presented as fact, devised especially to gain publicity and accepted because of constant repetition.

I would present to you a third possibility. A factoid is information that is floating around, is true but is also inconvenient to the present belief structure. Under this definition I have questions that I want answered .

1. Is it true that most of what Americans spend their money on is made in China?
2. Is it true that we owe most of our debt to China?
3. Is it true that we get most of our oil from the Middle East?

These three questions are core beliefs for Americans. Most of us believe that China owns us, that our purchases are flooded with Chinese goods and that the Middle East supplies us with the majority of our oil supplies.

It is time for a reality check!!!

Fact: Just 2.7% of personal consumption expenditures go to Chinese-made goods and services. 88.5% of U.S. consumer spending is on American-made goods and services.

This information comes from a Federal Reserve report.  From the Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chinese imports still account for just a small fraction of U.S. spending. Just 6.4% of non durable goods -- things like food, clothing and toys -- purchased in the U.S. are made in China; 76.2% are made in America. For durable goods -- things like cars and furniture -- 12% are made in China; 66.6% are made in America.

Fact: China owns 7.6% of U.S. government debt outstanding.

That is a far cry from being owned by China. Does China own a lot of our debt? Yes, but it's a qualified yes. Of all Treasury debt held by foreigners, China is indeed the largest owner ($1.13 trillion), followed by Japan ($1 trillion) and the U.K. ($429 billion).

So who owns the rest of our debt. Well, The largest holder of U.S. debt is the federal government itself. Various government trust funds like the Social Security trust fund own about $4.4 trillion worth of Treasury securities. The Federal Reserve owns another $1.6 trillion.

The interest we are paying on the debt owned by the Federal Government is paid directly back to our own treasury. Do you see the problem here. We are borrowing from ourselves to pay ourselves back.

Fact: Just 9.8% of oil consumed in the U.S. comes from the Middle East.

According the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the U.S. consumes 19.2 million barrels of petroleum products per day. Of that amount, a net 49% is produced domestically. The rest is imported.

Of the oil imported from the Persian Gulf region -- which includes Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates -- made up 9.8% of total petroleum supplied to the United. States.

The U.S. imports more than twice as much petroleum from Canada and Mexico than it does from the Middle East. Add in the share produced domestically, and the majority of petroleum consumed in the U.S. comes from North America.

All these figures change yearly and I urge you all to check the governments own numbers and judge for yourselves.

This information has been available for years and has been floating around for years. We have become so bombarded by information about China, in regard to debt and consumption, and the Middle East, in regard to oil imports, that we have begun to believe our own propaganda.

There are truths dangling about in our little factoids of information but we, as citizens, have to do our homework to determine those truths.


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